A waning moon, p.7
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       A Waning Moon, p.7

           Bliss Addison

  Whit noticed the perspiration on Lyron's face and the pain in his eyes. “You're going to be fine, Lyron.” A couple of inches lower and they wouldn't be having this conversation.

  “The shooter?”

  “Gone.” Whit hoped. He eyed the gun that lay in the snow outside the door. In his haste to get Lyron safely inside, he had forgotten to retrieve the weapon. “The sirens must have frightened him off.” He sat on the floor next to Lyron and snaked his fingers through his hair, his breath coming in uneven gasps. “What in hell is going on?”

  “I don't know, but someone wants you out of the way.”

  Flashlight beams crisscrossed in the back yard.

  Whit sprang to his feet and ran to the doorway. “In here. Call the EMT's. A man's been shot.” He returned to Lyron's side.

  Two police officers, weapons drawn, burst into the room. “Police! Freeze!”

  Expecting nothing more of the SJPD than for them to see the good guy as the bad guy, Whit threw his hands in the air and looked at the officer who issued the warning. “I'm Whitfield Hawkes, and this man needs immediate medical attention. Get the paramedics here.”

  The police officers took a quick look around, then holstered their weapons.

  “They're on their way,” the older of the two said.

  As though on cue, a siren blared, sounding close.

  Two more police officers rushed into the study and gave the all clear. “Shooter’s gone. Fled on foot.”

  Minutes later, the room overflowed with uniformed men, rushing around issuing orders and tending to Lyron.

  Whit, in lawyer-mode, took note of the proceedings, implanting in his mind who did what and where and to whom in case this came back to bite him in the unmentionables one day.

  Someone draped a blanket across his shoulders. He realized only then he shivered, partly from shock and partly from the cold blowing in through the open garden doors.

  Whit answered questions all the while keeping a close watch on Lyron, pale and bleeding, being worked on by two paramedics.

  “He's lost consciousness,” the paramedic whose nametag read, “Cleary,” said. “Let's get him to the hospital.”

  “I'm going with him,” Whit said.

  “It isn't permitted.”

  Whit stared him in the eyes. “I'm sorry. Did you think that was a request?”

  The following morning, Whit walked into Lyron's hospital room, private accommodations arranged and paid for by Whit. “How's the patient doing today?” he asked, smiling and taking notice of Lyron's pallid complexion.

  Lyron leaned forward, grimaced, shimmied his body higher on the bed, then leaned gingerly back against the pillow. “Better than last night.” He cocked a brow and said with his tongue in his cheek, “Hear you shot the hell out of the Juniperus virginiana. The paramedics said they did all they could for the cedar but to no avail. I'm told it died a painless death. First time shooting a gun, huh?”

  Whit appreciated Lyron's attempt to lighten the happening, but couldn't smile. Lyron had almost been killed. “And I hope the last.”

  Lyron turned serious. “Thanks for pulling me out of the line of fire. I owe you my life.”

  “You would have done the same for me.” Whit knew Lyron's admission came with great difficulty. He didn't express gratitude easily or often. Wanting to change the subject for his sake, he said, “Think we'll get anything from the radio broadcasts today?”

  Lyron shrugged and grimaced. “We should. Fifty thou is a substantial reward. Did you get a look at the shooter?”

  Whit shook his head. “Did you?”

  “No.” Lyron waved his good hand in the air. “Blowing snow and trees blocked the view.”

  Whit paced the short expanse of the room. “Detective Quinn paid me a visit last night after I got home.”

  Lyron snorted. “What did he have to say?”

  “Not much.” Whit could almost feel Lyron's eyes boring holes in his back. He turned and faced him. “He thinks it's a random shooting.”

  “Well, we both know he isn't the sharpest tool in the shed.” Lyron shook his head. “Random shooting in the middle of a snowstorm? God.” He shook his head again. “Any idea why someone wants you out of the way?”

  Whit walked to the side of the bed and raked his fingers through his hair.

  “I've been over it a thousand times and each time I come up empty.”

  “First Mary Ellen disappears, then there's a hit on you.”

  Whit nodded. “It doesn't make any sense.”

  “Are you sure her disappearance isn't related to a case you're working on?”

  “I'm sure.” Whit shook his head to reinforce his response.

  “An old case? A grudge, maybe?”

  “I won't deny I've made some enemies along the way, but nothing that would warrant kidnapping or a hit.”

  “Any pending trial that someone may want you take a fall on?”

  “Nothing.” At Lyron's unconvinced look, he said, “There's nothing. I'm sure.”

  “Okay, I believe you. Maybe we're getting close to finding Mary Ellen or learning why she was abducted. I'm being released later today, so I'll be able to give you a hand with the calls from the reward offer.”

  Whit frowned again. He did it a lot with him. Lyron marched to his own drummer. “Your doctor said you'd be here for a couple of days.”

  “It's what he wants and thinks will happen.”

  “Is it wise? Exertion could dislodge your stitches and open your wound, not to mention the risk of infection.”

  “There're pills for that.” Lyron huffed a frustrated breath. “You sound like him.”

  “He knows what he's talking about.”

  “I don't care. I'm still leaving. Inactivity drives me crazy. You know that.”

  Whit also knew better than to argue. He checked his watch. “I have to be in court in an hour. What time do you plan on busting out?”

  “After the doc comes by. Around eleven, the nurse said.”

  “I'll be back to pick you up. Don't give him a hard time. If he's adamant you stay, you stay. Understood?”

  Lyron stared at him, unmoving and saying nothing.


  “All right. All right. Now go. I need to rehearse the speech I'm going to give him so he'll discharge me.”

  Whit smiled, knowing the yarn Lyron was about to spin would be as good as any closing argument Whit could prepare.

  The Doc didn't have a chance.

  As Whit got behind the wheel of his car, his cell rang. He dug the phone from his coat pocket and answered the call. “Hawkes.”

  “My God, I just heard about Lyron and the shooting. Are you all right? Why didn't you call?”

  “Candace. I'm fine. I'm sorry I didn't call. Things have been pretty hectic.”

  “Tell me what happened.”

  He did.

  “My God, Whit, you could have been killed. What were you thinking!”

  I was thinking my friend would be killed if I didn't help him. He couldn't tell her that, of course. Candace firmly believed in care for thyself and let others look after thyselves. “I didn't think. I reacted. Maybe it was foolish.”

  “Yes, it was. Very foolish.”

  Patience was at a premium for him. He hardly slept last night and what sleep he'd managed was plagued with nightmares of the shooting. “Candace, I'm sorry, but I have to go. I'm due in court in a few.”

  “I thought you said you didn't have any trials for awhile.”

  “I don't. Not until the spring sitting. It's a motion.”

  She sighed. “I have to go. I have an appointment. I love you.”

  “Me too.” Whit disconnected and leaned his head back against the headrest, her lack of compassion left him feeling sad and helpless.

  He looked out the windshield. The sun shone brightly, glistening on the freshly fallen snow. Distantly, he could hear plows laboring to clear the parking lot. He rubbed his eyes, then dragged his hands down his face, regretting th
at he hadn't broken it off with Candace months ago. Delaying had only made things more difficult.

  His cell phone rang again. This time he checked call display — private caller. He answered the call. “Whitfield Hawkes.”

  “Are you the guy who's looking for his sister?” a raspy voice asked.

  Whit lifted his head, fully alert. “Do you know where she is?”

  “Are you offering a reward?”

  “Yes, and if it leads to her whereabouts, you'll get it.”

  “I have what you need, then.”

  Chapter Ten

  Outside, the air horn on a big rig blared, two long toots followed by a short one, awakening Blossom. She lifted her eyelids. The pounding in her head and the ache behind her eyes forced her to clamp her lids together. She couldn't recall ever experiencing a headache of this magnitude. Then she remembered the reason for it and considered the hangover punishment for her indulgence.

  She reopened her eyes, slowly this time. In her line of sight, Ian lay on top of the covers fully clothed and curled in a fetal position, his hands shaped in the classic prayer pose beneath his cheek. He smiled in slumber and looked as contented as a baby. Why? The answer came as sudden as heartburn.

  Holy crap. She didn't...they didn't…

  She peeked under the blankets. Almighty Lord, not a stitch of clothes.

  The pounding in her head accelerated, keeping time with her galloping heart.

  Ian opened his eyes. “Mornin', sweetheart.”

  She yanked the blankets to her chin and said the first thing that popped into her mind. “Morning.”

  He yawned and stretched and shook his head repeatedly, the loose skin on his cheeks flapping against bone. “You were wonderful last night.”

  Oh dear God, no. She wouldn't...No, she would remember having sex with him. Through the hangover-induced haze, she searched her memory. No recollection of their night together surfaced. She called him on it. “Nothing happened between us.” They were practically related, for Heaven's sake. She wouldn’t have let it happen. She wouldn’t. What of all the precautions she’d taken?

  He placed a hand against his heart. “You don't remember? That hurts. I performed —”

  “Nothing happened.” She would remember. Ian was teasing her.

  “I see you need convincing.” He sat up and folded his legs beneath him. “There's this little dimple on your right butt cheek, and you especially liked it when —”

  “Nothing you can say will make me believe anything happened between us.” Denial was good. If she didn't believe, how could she feel guilt? Doubt was fault inverted, her granny always said.

  “You were smokin'. I gotta tell you, I never did it in a bubble bath before, but now that I have...” He lifted a lock of hair from her eyes. “How about a repeat performance? Whaddaya say, hot cakes?”

  She jerked out of his reach. “In your dreams, stud muffin.” She yanked the sheet from the bed. The movement came so unexpectedly, Ian didn't have a chance to prepare himself. He lifted into the air, landed on the edge of the mattress and slid off, falling with a kerplunk onto the wooden floor.

  "That's what you get for messing with a Drummond." Her voice was stern, but inside she was laughing. With a snort, she wrapped the sheet around her torso and walked around the bed. She looked at him, harrumphed and trotted off to the bathroom.

  Behind a closed and locked door, she leaned against the pedestal sink and grabbed her head. The pain was excruciating. She needed drugs. Maybe if she asked nicely, Ian would fetch her aspirin.

  She splashed cold water on her face and glared at her reflection in the mirror. Nothing happened last night. Nothing. Believing it, she rooted through her carryall, which Ian had obviously brought from the car some time last night, and found her toiletries.

  When she came out of the bathroom, looking as presentable as she could given her bloodshot eyes, droopy lids and pounding head, Ian was talking on the phone. She met his gaze and held it, determined not to let him affect her in that way. Much to her surprise, he didn't. A result of her ill-functioning brain, she supposed.

  “We'll give it an hour, then. Thanks.” He hung up.

  “Who was that?”

  “DOT. I called to get the road conditions.”

  “And?” She held her breath and said a silent prayer: Please God, don't strand us here another night. This cabin with its pine-paneled walls, gleaming hardwood floors, brass bed, and handmade patchwork quilt was too cozy and she, too wanton.

  “The provincial highway is clear, but Dildo is still being plowed out. Why don't we have some breakfast in the meantime?”

  Her stomach churned at the mention of food. “I can't eat anything. My ‘ead feels right logy after the ‘time’ last night, and me eyes ‘re like a caplin goin’ offshore. Hangovers ’re der worst.”

  He cocked an eyebrow and said, “Food will set things right.”

  She doubted it, but nodded anyway, thinking a coffee might pick her up.

  “I'll get the bags.”

  When he turned toward the bathroom, she looked out the front window.

  The snow had stopped, but left an impression that would last until spring. Drifts the height of corn stalks sat haphazardly across the yard. Approximately seventy-five feet directly in her line of vision, a few motorists braved the precarious road conditions and above her, the sun shone in an unblemished azure sky.

  She thought about the long car ride ahead. Would she manage this composure once the hangover wore off? Would they learn something in St. John’s that would lead them to setting right the wrong of great-granny Aggie? Ian had mentioned trying to find a descendant of Hesper's. Maybe he would have better luck than she.

  She turned when Ian dropped the bags near the door.

  He studied her a moment. “All set?”

  “As I'll ever be.”

  In the restaurant, Ian took charge, ordering two breakfast specials — scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes with homemade blueberry syrup, tomato juice and coffee. “And would you bring us some aspirin if you have it.”

  The waitress, already in motion to leave, halted abruptly, her massive hips coming to a stop seconds later. “We only have acetaminophen.”

  “That'll work, too. Thanks.” Ian smiled and looked out the window. “I wonder what Dildos do for fun.”

  In a mid-sip of water, she sputtered and coughed. “What?”

  “The people of Dildo. Dildos.”

  She nodded. “Ah. The same as people in any other small town. Movies, bowling, bingo, Parcheesi.”

  “How's the head?”

  Fishing her cell phone from her purse, she said, “It only pounds when I move.” She punched in the number for the bookstore, realizing this was the first time she called herself. No one had ever minded the shop for her before. One ring…two…three, Olive cut into the fourth ring. “Ye Ol' Book Shoppe.”

  “Olive, It's Blossom. How's everything?”

  “Smashing. Yesterday's sales totaled four hundred dollars.”

  Blossom barely contained her surprise. The ol’ folks sold in a day what she sold in a month!

  “Rose made fudge, vanilla, chocolate and divinity, and sold them for a buck seventy-five a piece. They went like hot cakes. Speaking of which, they're on the menu for tomorrow. Just a sec.”

  Blossom heard a hand cup the mouthpiece, but could still hear Olive say, “Rose, this is the third time this morning you lost your dentures. If you'd keep them in your mouth where God made a place for them, you'd know where they were. Check the pocket in your apron.” Olive huffed a breath and came back on the line. “And Lawrence is doing his part by entertaining the customers with stories of his sea-faring days. He made a kiddie's corner and hustled children off the sidewalk after school yesterday and read to them.”

  Blossom smiled. “I should have put you fellas in charge before this.”

  “You don't mind?”

  “Of course not.”

  “Did you make it to St. John’s yesterday?”
  “No. The storm got too bad. We couldn't see where we were going.”

  “We watched the newscast of the storm on television last night. It was a humdinger.”


  “Rose, Lawrence and me. We ate in your apartment. You don't mind, do you? None of us have a microwave and those frozen dinners you had made up in your freezer take so long to thaw in the oven.”

  “It's fine, Olive. If you take the meals out of the freezer in the morning, all you'll need to do is warm them.” In all the years that Olive, Rose and Lawrence rented apartments in her building, they never once hung out together. Now they seemed inseparable. Go figure.

  “We never thought of that. How's that hunk, Ian? Did you get some last night?”

  Blossom wondered that herself. “’Fraid not.”

  “A shame. The two of you look cute together. Where did you lay over?”


  “You didn't get very far. If you happen to meet up with Dusty Rhodes, tell him his wild Irish Rose says hi.”

  “I will.” She closed her phone.

  “How's everything on the range?” Ian asked.

  “They're having a ball.”

  “What did I tell you?”

  “You were right.”

  The waitress brought their orders, shook out two acetaminophen tablets from a bottle and slapped the check on the table. “If you need anything else, holler.”

  “Will do.” Ian smiled.

  Blossom looked at the food without an appetite.

  Ian took the knife and fork in his hands, smiled and said, “Eat up. You'll feel better. Garnteed, b’y.”

  “Guaranteed, huh?”

  “Okay, Ian,” Blossom said after they settled into the Mustang. “What really happened last night?”

  “Back on that, huh?” He steered the car onto the highway. The wheels slipped, spun, then dug in. “What do you recall?”

  She thought a moment, but not too hard. Her head still hurt. “Playing pool, bacon cheese dogs, turkey quesadillas, nachos, burritos, beer —”

  “And can you toss them back!”

  She glowered at him. “I remember coming out of the restaurant, almost falling, and you carrying me to the cabin.”

  “Not too much to tell after that. I set you on the bed, you stripped, mumbling something about burning up and insects crawling under skin, then you got under the covers and promptly fell asleep.”

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